WSD high school will connect campus

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Kevin Murphy
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
— Safety and security are among primary reasons for replacing the 100-year-old high school at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf, said the school's education director.

"Having nonambulatory students in a three-floor building you can't evacuate wheelchair students in an emergency," Alex Slappey said.

The new 23,804-square-foot high school will have classrooms on the ground floor. The building will connect with Pie and Nessam halls, providing a more secure campus and allowing students to stay indoors as they move between buildings.

"We'll have one entry point in the buildings. Now we have to leave doors unlocked," Slappey said of the Delavan-based school.

The current high school, named after E.W. Walker, a WSD superintendent from 1902-16, is a wood frame building, hard to heat and cool, doesn't meet fire or building codes and isn't conducive to teaching today's students.

"The classrooms are narrow, built for rows of students, but we emphasize visual instruction methods so we try to have students sit in a semi-circle. The new classrooms are designed for that," Slappey said.

The new high school also will have improved Internet access and the latest teaching technology. Chalkboards will be replaced by projection screens wired to smart boards that can be manipulated by students.

State-of-the-art classrooms in a new building could boost enrollment beyond the 70 high school students attending from across the state this year.

"Hopefully, a new building will make us more attractive to more students. If you've seen the older building, you'll know what I mean. It's an old building, and it looks like one," Slappey said.

Elementary-through-high school enrollment has been stable during the past five years with 125 students enrolled in 2009 and 119 last year. The new high school will have a 100-student capacity, and no additional staffing beyond the current 25 instructors will be needed if enrollment reaches that level.

The new high school will be slightly larger than Walker Hall, and the extra room will accommodate offices for academic support staff, a psychologist and other specialists, allowing easier interactions between them and the instructors to better coordinate student services.

DPI had recommended replacing Walker Hall in 1986, but the Department of Administration kept obtaining money to repair it until 2009, when it asked DPI to begin planning to replace the building.

Last week, the State Building Commission approved construction of a new high school at $4.98 million. Slappey said an architect can be hired this winter to prepare the final design. Construction is expected to begin this summer and be completed by fall 2013.

Last updated: 6:52 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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